Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Adapting Conventional Materials

I think one of the biggest struggles for me, using Waldorf, is not actually learning about Waldorf (although that's not always easy, as your questions get more complicated) but rather trying to figure out what to do with all the other ideas that are out there. Are you going to reject it completely? Are you going to just wait to use it until your child is older and it fits what Waldorf says is developmentally appropriate? Are you going to go ahead and use it but adapt it to change how the material is presented?

A virtual field trip is a good example. I just got an email from the Nutrients for Life Foundation (which tries to get people to be more open to conventional fertilizers by preparing free curriculum materials and encouraging teachers to teach soil science in the classroom). I have used their curriculum and some of it is handy. I like any lesson that is straight-up soil science for 3rd grade F&G, such as the layers of the soil, or what nutrients are depleted by each crop. For something that tries to persuade us to use a certain product, I think there's room to teach critical thinking skills by asking students to identify persuasive techniques and challenge them. I know that Waldorf would be against a virtual field trip to a strawberry farm because the vitality of the plants and of the teacher and the interaction with the student is so depleted. But I still offer up the link to anyone, using any method, who might find it useful:

Teachers Pay Teachers is another good example. I find it hard to resist a free weekly email with ten free curriculum products. I have signed up for the grade 6 - 12 email. I haven't seen anything yet that was from an alternative method... it is all super traditional. Do I want to present some things to my daughters in conventional format so that they are used to it in case they transition back into public school? No, not really. But I still have that little voice in the back of my mind that pokes and makes me squirm. Some things are unusable, of course. Some things can be modified. Some are handy for anyone using any method. A math game such as the Order of Operations Dice Game? Why not. A graphic organizer? Ok. An idea that spurs me to have new ideas isn't a bad thing. There was one Tic-Tac-Tale activity a few weeks ago that I did not care for (I don't think that kids are motivated by having activities that talk down to them trying to be "hip," asking them to draw comic strips, create graffiti, or compose conversations between characters in text message format -- and anyone who heads to college thinking this is how to interact with Edgar Allen Poe's work will be in for a nasty shock). But I did think the idea of creating a 3 x 3 grid of possible activities and letting the child choose three that made a row was kind of cool. I also liked the idea behind the Date, Mate, Relate, or Hate activity for Pride & Prejudice, and will probably use it. In fact, it made me think that Natalie and I should do that book this school year.

We adapted the Simple, Compound, Complex, and Compound-Complex lesson on types of sentences. I determined that it is really a lesson on the types of conjunctions. By doing this lesson, we learned that there are coordinating conjunctions and subordinating conjunctions. The girls and I ended up making a list of each as we worked through her examples, figuring out what the conjunctions were and what job they had in the sentence, and actually drawing a yellow box on the board and a blue box on the board. Each list was written in a box. The yellow box was for coordinating conjunctions. The blue box was for subordinating conjunctions. Then we went through her example sentences, rewriting the sentences and underlining the conjunctions with colored pencil depending on if they were yellow or blue, coordinating or subordinating. "And" is coordinating, but "because" and "although" are subordinating.

If a sentence has no conjunctions, it is simple.

If a sentence has coordinating conjunctions, it is compound.

If a sentence has subordinating conjunctions, it is complex.

If a sentence has both yellow and blue lines in it, it is compound-complex (which we considered a "green" sentence).

It wasn't easy for me to figure out what the heart of the lesson was at first, but once we rearranged it and color coded it and made it logical for us, it was worthwhile. In fact, the girls got so adept at this, that in the more complicated activity, where you add a clause of your own creation to make a sentence into one that is compound-complex, adding in whatever type of clause and conjunction is missing from the initial example, they didn't fumble a bit. No one accidentally chose a conjunction of the wrong type.

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